The publication of King’s The Dead Zone marked the fifth novel in his career and the first work of his to receive both a paperback and hardcover bestseller status. Following its publication in 1979 and its listing as the sixth bestseller in hardback for that year (“Publisher’s Weekly”), the novel received overwhelmingly positive reviews, with critics heralding the novel as a masterwork of horror, the gothic, suspense, fantasy, and a divergence from his other successful works, with its greater emphasis on plot, compared to the deeper psychological analysis of his characters seen heavily in his other novels. The book helped further King’s career and increase his popularity among readers, yet did not grant him acclaim with scholars nor did the novel help cement King as a “literary” writer. The success of King’s novel, as well as the success of his earlier works, prompted a movie adaption in 1983 and a television adaption beginning in 2002. The bestseller status of King’s novel, The Dead Zone, was created through his popularity and reputation among his fan base as a reputable and innovative horror writer and his decision to switch to a new publisher; however, the positive initial and subsequent reception received for the novel can be attributed to the publication of his other novels, which granted comparisons to The Dead Zone, and adaptions of the novel into a movie and television series, which prompted further editions and translations of his novel.
The publishing of King’s The Dead Zone garnered him more appreciation amongst critics, as the novel expanded beyond the horror genre to focus on other genres and called attention back to his humble origins only years earlier. However, the novel still did not earn him the accreditation of being a “literary” writer. In 1992, “Tony Magistrale noted that "King's literary reputation among academicians… continues to languish" (Dark Descent 2), so it appears that serious discussions of his work may not occur until after his passing. In many of King’s novels, like The Dead Zone, there is a gothic focus, attacks on society, and a mixture of horror, science fiction, thriller, and fantasy (“Sacral Parody”). Yet, The Dead Zone differed from King’s other works by traversing through romance, with the relationship of Johnny and Sarah, action and thrill in Johnny’s task of assassinating a politician to save mankind from a nuclear war, and science fiction via the exploration of Johnny’s telepathy, rather than simply gruesome horror (although, that is in the novel as well, through the investigation of finding a serial killer). The commercial and popular success of The Dead Zone brought some attention back to King’s former occupation as an English teacher in the early 70s and the strained financial situation he and his wife found themselves in prior to the successful publication of Carrie (“Behind the Bestseller: Stephen King”), as the publication of The Dead Zone occurred only six years after these events. The short amount of time that elapsed from King’s former occupation and lifestyle, to the success he found with publishing novels like The Dead Zone, returned attention to his earlier career and financial situation, generating broader insights on the author’s humble background.
King’s decision to switch from his old publisher to Viking and the novel’s exploration of common themes and historical events occurring around the time of the novel’s publication, led to him having more hardcover success for The Dead Zone, helping it rise to bestseller status. King’s original publisher, Doubleday, who he used to publish his earlier novels, had a long success with publishing novels from notable authors like Ray Bradbury and Upton Sinclair, and turning their novels into bestsellers (“Doubleday”). While King’s other novels did well under Doubleday, each reaching paperback bestseller status, he ultimately decided to form a new contract with New American Library, who would “keep the paperback rights and sell the hardcover rights to Viking” (“Behind the Bestsellers”, Lawson) because he wanted more influence and capital from the publication of his books in paperback. First printings of the first edition of the book were recorded at 110,000 copies in September, 1979, only one month after the novel’s publication, suggesting that switching to a new publishing group and contact worked well in King’s favor. The combination of switching to Viking Press, a publishing house known for printing the works of credible and groundbreaking best-selling and literary novels, the rising age of King’s fan base who could afford pricier hardcover novels (“Behind the Bestsellers: Stephen King”), and King’s increasing reputation as an innovative science fiction novelist helped contribute to The Dead Zone’s bestseller status in 1979. In addition to working with a new publisher and his increasing popularity among American readers, The Dead Zone’s exploration of recent historical events and common themes present in many novels written during the 1970s helped the novel rise to bestseller status.
Similar to other bestseller novels written during the 1970s, The Dead Zone traverses through common themes and recent historical events occurring near the publication of these novels, which helped give rise to its initial popularity and bestseller status among readers. Upon initial examination, it can appear that the novels on the bestseller list in the 1970s and especially 1979, have little in common with each other; however, upon a deeper scrutiny, many of the novels delve into exploring and responding to unsettling past and recent/contemporary historical events through a mixture of realism and/or fantasy, via an everyman or hero-like character. This everyman or hero-like character either possesses supernatural/ other-worldly powers like Johnny Smith in The Dead Zone or is an everyman figure, such as Big Dan Huggins, in Memories of Another Day. Like The Dead Zone, many of these novels explore recent Cold War events, like the threat of a nuclear war, current U.S. politics, a retrospective evaluation of history, ethics and morality, the decline of religion and the rise of secularism in society, and a movement away from traditional values and small town life, towards modernity and globalization. Many of the bestseller books from the 1970s-feature classic, bold colors with realistic pictures and scenes of modern life, like the cover art from the first edition of The Dead Zone, which features half of a man’s face staring into a clock. Similar to other bestseller novels at the time, magazines and newspapers, like the Chicago Tribune, began to advertise for The Dead Zone soon after its publication by highlighting reviews from critics, including King’s notable and successful earlier novels, and using bold, gothic-like text to attract readers. The common themes and historical events explored in The Dead Zone resonated with readers who had enjoyed novels that also investigated similar events and topics, helping to generate support for King’s novel and leading to its bestseller status.
The success and popularity King experienced with his earlier, successful novels that reached paperback bestseller status promoted the popularity and reception of The Dead Zone, leading it to become a hardback bestseller. McDowell writes, “Both Carrie, published in 1974 and Salem’s Lot published the next year… were huge bestsellers in paperback. Then came The Shining (1977) and The Stand (1978), which did very well in both hardcover and paperback, and led to a multiple book contract with New American Library” (“Behind the Bestsellers: Stephen King”). Beginning with Carrie, King began to accumulate a wider fan base who would come to support his later novels. This support is evidenced by the increasing number of copies sold or printings made for each book published after Carrie. Fleischer writes, “Carrie, his first novel… published, now has over 3,100,000 copies in print in its… Signet edition; Salem’s Lot has over 2,500,000 copies in NAL covers and The Shining came out from them earlier this year with an initial printing of 1,500,000” (“A Talk with Stephen King”). It was the success of Carrie, King’s first published novel, that launched his career, his fan base, and would help lead to bestseller status first in paperback and then eventually hardback, for many of his later novels, like The Dead Zone. Although Carrie was King’s first published novel, he had already written drafts and had well-planned out ideas for his future novels that would come out in quick succession, which would further help cement and expand his fan base, as many of his fans loved Carrie and wanted more work from him in a short amount of time (Beahm, 29). Consequently, King’s ability to churn out popular novels in a quick succession kept alive his crowd of supporters, who would expand in greater numbers to support more and more of his novels. Both Carrie and The Dead Zone are also unique in their own way, which contributed to their individual success and evaluation as standing in a league seperate from King’s larger body of work. Carrie is unique in its own right for taking horror in a new direction through a feministic perspective, which readers relished in the backdrop of an era filled with calls for liberation and equal rights for women, and its unique semi-epistolary narrative style with the excerpts from books, newspaper articles, interviews, and letters. The Dead Zone, bolstered by the success of King’s other works, reached bestseller status because it, too, was unique. The novel features an easily identifiable hero who is tasked with a mission to save mankind, creating sympathy from readers as they journey along with him as his life falls apart, focuses on the intersection of plot, setting, and character, rather than an over emphasis on the psychological state of a character and a neglecting of plot (sometimes faulted by critics in his other novels), and expands beyond his body of work as simply a horror writer, as the novel delves into genres of romance, thrill, and suspense. The success of King’s earlier works, especially Carrie, helped create a large fan base for King, which helped launch the success and bestseller status of his later novels, like The Dead Zone.
The commercial and popular success of King’s novel led to a 1983 movie adaptation, which increased the popularity of King’s work, as the movie led to more translations of the novel and comparisons to his later work. One critic from the Los Angeles Herald Examiner noted that the move was a “faithful adaptation” of the book, implying that the movie was realistic to King’s plot and characters in his work. Many others reviews heralded the movie for its star actors, like Christopher Walken, who were able to carry out well the intricateness of the plot. However, other critics felt that the movie was not as faithful to the book with poor character development and plot changes ("Comatose 'Dead Zone”). Despite varied critic opinion, the film did well commercially and popularly among audiences, earning a gross revenue of $21 million from its $10 million budget ("The Dead Zone", IMDB), achieved a variety of science fiction film and best acting awards, and currently holds a 90% rating on rotten tomatoes ("The Dead Zone", Rottentomatoes.com). The Dead Zone film has been lauded as one of the most faithful adaptions among King’s novels that have been adapted onto the big screen and because of its faithful adaptation, as well as its popular and commercial success, the book increased in popularity as well. While the sales figures and number of copies sold for The Dead Zone after 1980 is not available, the increased popularity of the novel after the creation of the film can be seen in the number of translations that popped up after 1983. From 1983 until 2002, the year that the television series of the show began, over 80 translations of the novel in fourteen languages were completed (WorldCat), with only seven of those translations occurring before the move’s publication in 1983. The frequent advertising of the film in newspapers and magazines up until the late 1990s and early 2000s (The Washington Post), combined with the numerous translations that popped up world-wide after the film’s completion, continued to popularize the novel. The 1983 adaption of The Dead Zone helped popularize the novel increasingly in the years following the move’s debut, as the movie was constantly referenced in ads of newspapers and magazines through the early 2000s, and spurred dozens of translations of the novel worldwide, creating larger audiences.
The popular success and reception of the television series generated increased success for the novel, as more translations were made from the novel. While the television series ran for six successful seasons, received many awards and nominations, and currently holds a 7.5/10 rating on IMDB, the reception of the series varied among critics. One critic wrote, “There may be life in this series, at least for viewers who have no knowledge of, or loyalty to, the book or the film. But it won’t have anything to do with what made the original “Dead Zone” powerful” (“A Hero Who Sees Marilyn and Elvis”). Yet, other critics felt that the series was “fairly faithful to the book and is brightened by solid acting and a good script” (Sherber, “The Dead Zone”). Despite varied critic opinion, the show was well-received amongst audiences, presumably for its incorporation of current U.S. political, social, and economic issues occurring in society, but also glimpses of small town life (“The Dead Zone”, IMDB). While the novel differs in the historical period examined (1970s) compared to the television series, which is set in the 2000s, both the novel and TV series share features that attracted their audiences initially: the presence of a relatable, everyman character who is forced to confront his purpose and responsibility in a tumultuous and disconcerting world, amidst looming personal and larger societal problems. After the introduction of the television series in 2002, an additional 29 translations in nine languages were completed, four editions were published from other publishers, and two other editions were published from the original publisher (WorldCat). It appears that the further success of the television series prompted more translations into other languages, and more editions from the original publisher as well as other publishers, contributing to the greater success of the novel.
The bestseller status of King’s novel, The Dead Zone, was created through his popularity and reputation among his fan base as a reputable and innovative horror writer and his decision to switch to a new publisher; however, the positive initial and subsequent reception received for the novel can be attributed to the publication of his other novels, which granted comparisons to The Dead Zone, and adaptions of the novel into a movie and television series, which prompted further editions and translations of his novel. While The Dead Zone did not earn King the literary credential he desired, the novel helped to cement him as an increasingly talented, devoted, and humbled writer. In the years following The Dead Zone's publication, he has written over forty plus novels (leading to a career total of over fifty novels; sixty, if you count the novels written under his pen name, Richard Bachman, and the six non-fiction novels he has published) ("The Author"), has received dozens of awards for his contributions to the world of literature, and has made an effort to contribute towards philanthropic organizations in Maine, reportedly donating $4 million annually to various libraries and fire departments in Maine ("Stephen King: I'm Rich, Tax Me"). The influence that King has had on the world of books, and especially in the horror genre, has been monumental, contributing to an enduring legacy of talent, experimentation, and a wilingness to push beyond boundaries to cover unknown terrains of human fears and vulnerabilities. King has had a giant influence on the development of fiction and nonfiction from the late 20th century and continues to serve as a role model and leader in the advancement of literature, and especially bestsellers, today.
Assignment Five Bibliography
*ARCHIVEGRID.” WorldCcat, beta.worldcat.org/archivegrid/?q.
*Arnold, Gary. “Comatose Dead Zone.” The Washington Post (1974Current file), Oct 29,1983, pp. 1, ProQuest, http://proxy01.its.virginia.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/147471942 ?acco ntid=14678.
*Beahm, George W. Stephen King from A to Z: An Encyclopedia of His Life and Work. Andrews, 1998.
*Carvajal, Doreen. “Who can Afford Him?” New York Times (1923-Current file), Oct 27, 1997, pp. 2, ProQuest, http://proxy01.its.virginia.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/109729640 ?accountid=14678.
Cerone, Daniel. "They Keep Coming Back for More." Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File), Nov 18, 1990, pp. 3, ProQuest, http://proxy01.its.virginia.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/
*"Display Ad 175 -- no Title." Chicago Tribune (1963-Current file), Sep 30, 1979, pp. 1-d25 . ProQuest, http://proxy01.its.virginia.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/171980356 ?accountid=14678.
*“Doubleday.” Knopf Doubleday, knopfdoubleday.com/imprint/doubleday/.
*Egan, James. “Sacral Parody in the Fiction of Stephen King.” Contemporary Literary Criticism, edited by Jeffrey W. Hunter and Deborah A. Schmitt, vol. 113, Gale, 1999. Literature Resource Center, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/H1100003949/LitRC?u=viva_uva&sid=LitRC& amp;xid= 61f296d1. Accessed 17 Mar. 2018. Originally published in Journal of Popular Culture, vol. 23, no. 3, Winter 1989, pp. 125-141.
*Fleischer, Leonore. "A Talk with Stephen King." The Washington Post (1974-Current file), Oct 01, 1978, pp. 1. ProQuest, http://proxy01.its.virginia.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/146982110 ?accountid=14678.
*Flood, Alison. “How Carrie Changed Stephen King's Life, and Began a Generation of Horror.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 4 Apr. 2014, www.theguardian.com/books/2014/apr/04/carrie-stephen-king-horror.
*Gates, Anita. “TV WEEKEND.” New York Times (1923-Current file), Jul 19, 2002, pp. 1, ProQuest, http://proxy01.its.virginia.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/92378110? accountid=14678.
*Hendrickson, Paul. "The Author of 'Carrie' Lives with His Demons: 'My Obsession is the Macabre'." The Washington Post (1974-Current file), Aug 30, 1979, pp. 2. ProQuest, http://proxy01.its.virginia.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/147119655 ?accountid=14678.
JOHN P. "The Magnificent Revels of Stephen King." Wall Street Journal (1923 - Current file), Sep 04, 1980, pp. 26, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Wall Street Journal, http://proxy01.its.virginia.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/13448648? accountid=14678.
*King, Stephen. The Dead Zone. Viking Press, 1979.
*Lawson, Carol. “Behind the Best Sellers: Stephen King.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 23 Sept. 1979, www.nytimes.com/books/97/03/09/lifetimes/kin-v-behind.html.
*Maryles, Daisy. “Bestsellers of 1999--Hardcover: So Far, Little Has Changed.” PublishersWeekly.com, Publisher Weekly, 10 Apr. 2000, www.publishersweekly.com/pw/print/20000410/37047-pw-bestsellers-of-1999- hardcover-so-far-little-has-changed.html.
*Maslin, Janet. “FILM: 'DEAD ZONE,' FROM KING NOVEL.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 21 Oct. 1983, www.nytimes.com/1983/10/21/movies/film-dead-zone-from- king-novel.html.
*McDowell, Edwin. “BEHIND THE BEST SELLERS.” New York Times (1923- Current file), Sep 27, 1981, pp. 1, ProQuest, http://proxy01.its.virginia.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/121755244 ?accountid=14678.
*Other 394 -- no Title." The Washington Post (1974-Current file), Oct 31, 1999, pp. 2. ProQuest, http://proxy01.its.virginia.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/170746450 1?accountid=14678.
*Plain Dealer, 6 Sept. 1979, p. 2. Readex: Readex AllSearch, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/readex/doc?p=ARDX&docref=image/v2:122AFBB A107AC9E4@EANX-130448C9EED222B7@2444123-1303EBA2A9B00AB2@1- 1303EBA2A9B00AB2@. Accessed 28 Mar. 2018.
*Plain Dealer, 21 Sept. 1979, p. 140. Readex: Readex AllSearch, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/readex/doc?p=ARDX&docref=image/v2:12 2AFBBA107AC9E4@EANX-1304589F1F20B6F9@2444138-13044E3C6C8E361B@139- 13044E3C6C8E361B@. Accessed 28 Mar. 2018
*Richmond Times Dispatch, 27 Jan. 1980, p. 105. Readex: Readex AllSearch, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/readex/doc?p=ARDX&docref=image/v2:13 5B950C9F3CF0C6@EANX-149C163B04B516C7@2444266-
149965E9E6A5A9F7@104- 149965E9E6A5A9F7@. Accessed 28 Mar. 2018.
*Richmond Times Dispatch, Two Star ed., 1 Sept. 1980, p. 19. Readex: Readex AllSearch, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/readex/doc?p=ARDX&docref=image/v2:135B950C 9F3CF0C6@EANX-149C594961F1E804@2444484-149C4EAA82583C58@18- 149C4EAA82583C58@. Accessed 28 Mar. 2018.
*Richmond Times Dispatch, 19 Oct. 1980, p. 112. Readex: Readex AllSearch, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/readex/doc?p=ARDX&docref=image/v2:135B950C9F3C 0C6@EANX-149C995B0571BB8A@2444532-149C667196416DBD@111- 149C667196416DBD@. Accessed 29 Mar. 2018.
*Richmond Times Dispatch, 21 Oct. 1983, p. 36. Readex: Readex AllSearch, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/readex/doc?p=ARDX&docref=image/v2:13 5B950C9F3CF0C6@EANX-1441BF619B2D10B9@2445629-144055899A8B8755@35- 144055899A8B8755@. Accessed 28 Mar. 2018.
*Roraback, Dick. "Gift of Sight: Visions from a Nether World." Los Angeles Times (1923- Current File), Aug 26, 1979, pp. 2-l1, ProQuest, http://proxy01.its.virginia.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/ 158953432?accountid=14678.
Rubin, Stephen. "AUTHOR STEPHEN KING PONDERS HIS NEW DEAL." Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File), Jul 05, 1981, pp. 1-m7. ProQuest, http://proxy01.its.virginia.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/152863435 ?accountid=14678.
Sherber, Anne. 2002. The dead zone. Video Store Magazine 24, (41) (Oct): 38, http://proxy01.its.virginia.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/197609463 ?accountid=14678 (accessed April 17, 2018).
*“The Dead Zone (Movie 1983).” IMDb, IMDb.com, www.imdb.com/title/tt0281432/?ref_.
“The Dead Zone.” The Dead Zone (1983) - Rotten Tomatoes, RottenTomatoes, 17 Apr. 2018, www.rottentomatoes.com/m/dead_zone.
*“The Dead Zone (TV Series 2002–2007).” IMDb, IMDb.com, www.imdb.com/title/tt0281432/?ref_.
"The Science of Stephen King: From Carrie to Cell, the Terrifying Truth behind the Horror Master's Fiction." Publishers Weekly, vol. 254, no. 29, 23 July 2007, p. 58. EBSCOhost, proxy01.its.virginia.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&d b=llf&AN=25949667&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
*The Washington Post. "Vision of Holocaust: A Psychic's Dilemma." The Washington Post (1974-Current file), Aug 30, 1979, pp. 1, ProQuest, http://proxy01.its.virginia.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/ 147120766?accountid=14678.